All Sports Rumors & News >

NFL Quick-Hits: Ten Observations from Week 2 of Preseason

Every Sunday our NFL columnist Anthony Stalter will share his quick-hit observations from the week that was in football. This week he hands out 10 observations from Week 2 of the 2012 NFL preseason.

1. The Jets’ offense is troubling.
Mark Sanchez is already in mid-season form. In two preseason games, he’s 13-of-17 for a dismal 80 yards with no touchdowns and one 77-yard pick-six against the Giants on Saturday night. But it’s unfair to be overly critical of Sanchez’s performance when he’s consistently on his back or starring out of his ear hole. The Jets’ offensive line has been a disaster to this point and how can anyone expect that Sanchez will take that next step if right tackle Wayne Hunter acts as a turnstile instead of a brick wall? Sanchez has been sacked six times in 23 dropbacks in preseason and Hunter allowed four sacks in total on Saturday night. The fact that the Jets tried to trade for Carolina OT Jeff Otah back in July is all you need to know about the team’s confidence in Hunter. (The trade eventually fell through after Otah couldn’t pass a physical.) But it’s not just Hunter – the entire New York offensively is struggling, so much so that Tony Sparano’s offense has yet to score a touchdown in two preseason games. Forget Sanchez and ESPN’s lovechild Tim Tebow – if the Jets don’t get their offensive line straightened, the 1960s version of Joe Namath could step off a time machine and struggle under center.

2. Let’s keep Peyton’s “struggles” in proper context.
Following the Broncos’ loss to the Seahawks on Saturday night, the headlines on Sunday focused on Peyton Manning’s two interceptions. In two games this preseason, Manning is 20-of-30 passing for 221 yards, no touchdowns and three picks. Ever consumed by projections and predictions, many message board fanatics and media members are clamoring about how Manning doesn’t look like the Peyton of old. Really? The guy didn’t play a down last year and his career appeared to be in jeopardy. Twelve months ago many said he was finished. Now, because he’s thrown three interceptions in his first two preseason games following multiple neck surgeries, everyone is concerned? Relax. Jacob Tamme dropped an easy touchdown versus Seattle and Eric Decker also put one of Manning’s passes on the ground as well. His velocity isn’t there yet and may never return. But it’s only the second week of the preseason. Give him time to get his feel back for the game before we chastise him about his numbers.

3. It’s great to see Atlanta and Baltimore open things up.
The paths of the Falcons and Ravens have run parallel to each other since 2008. Mike Smith and John Harbaugh were both hired that year, while Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan were both selected in the first round of that draft. Both teams have also been on the cusp of big things, although Baltimore has been closer to fulfilling its promise than Atlanta, which is 0-3 in the playoffs under Smith. One other key similarity between these two teams is their offensive philosophy, which is to keep the ball on the ground and play a physical brand of football. Or, should I say that was the teams’ philosophy until this year. Flacco was inconsistent against the Lions on Friday but for the most part he looked smooth running Cam Cameron’s no huddle offense. He often got the Ravens set before Detroit’s defense was settled and while he attacked with mostly underneath routes, the takeaway is that he looked comfortable. Ryan, meanwhile, has looked like a different quarterback in new OC Dirk Koetter’s system. He’s no longer just a game manager that is afraid to fit the ball into tight windows. He’s confident, he’s standing strong in a muddied pocket and he has developed a great rapport with Julio Jones. In what has become a passing league, it’s good to see that two contenders have finally come to grips with the fact that they need to adjust.

4. Enough about Bradford’s ankle.
CBSsports.com’s Jason La Canfora released a report earlier this week that stated there’s a “definite possibility” that Sam Bradford will need ankle surgery after the season. I’m not here to discredit La Canfora’s report, which was validated a day later when the St. Louis Post-Dispatch confirmed that the team does have concerns about Bradford’s left ankle holding up for the entire season. But the bottom line is that he didn’t miss one rep in mini-camp, hasn’t missed one rep in training camp, and has yet to be affected by the ankle in preseason. In practices he hasn’t had issues rolling out of the pocket and hasn’t as much as limped around the field. Saturday night versus the Chiefs, he completed 6-of-9 passes for 102 yards and two touchdowns. From the very first snap of the game when he hit Danny Amendola on a long crossing route for a 35-yard gain, Bradford consistently went through his progressions and found open receivers. He’s primed for a bounce back season.

5. Outside of Urlacher, optimism continues to build in Chicago.
Looking back, the Bears had one of the better offseasons of any team in the league. Had Jay Cutler and Matt Forte not gotten hurt last season, the Bears were on a collision course with the fifth playoff seed in the NFC. So what did they do? They signed a quality player in Jason Smith to backup Cutler and added Michael Bush to help take some of the rushing load off of Forte. Of course, Chicago’s biggest and best move was trading for Brandon Marshall, who finally gives Cutler a bona fide No. 1 target. The Bears also drafted South Carolina receiver Alshon Jeffery, who has caught seven passes for 97 yards this offseason. The offensive line is the biggest concern, but the unit looked good on Saturday night. The other question mark is obviously Brian Urlacher, who likely won’t be healthy all season. But while the defense is getting long in the tooth, the Bears have everything they need to make a deep postseason run this season.

6. The Cardinals are in trouble.
If I were to pick one defense to improve the most from 2011 to 2012, I would choose the Arizona Cardinals. Last year coordinator Ray Horton implemented the same defense that Dick LeBeau runs in Pittsburgh and while the Cardinal defenders were often caught out of position last season because of their unfamiliarity with the scheme, they improved throughout the year. With a full offseason to grasp Horton’s scheme, Arizona’s defense should be quietly consistent all season. Then again, it better be because the offense could be a total disaster. The offensive line was already struggling before Levi Brown suffered what should be a season-ending triceps injury on Friday. Not only that, but Kevin Kolb has been a train wreck in preseason and while John Skelton has displayed a little magic before, he’ll eventually succumb to the pitfalls of the offensive line. Thanks to Larry Fitzgerald, Beanie Wells, Michael Floyd and Ryan Williams, the parts are there. But Wells and Williams are injury concerns, the Cardinals are bringing Floyd along slowly and the greatness of Fitzgerald is nullified by a bad situation at quarterback and along the offensive line. It could be a long season in the desert.

7. Locker is keeping Hasselbeck in the running.
With an opportunity to perhaps widen the gap between he and Matt Hasselbeck, Jake Locker really struggled in his second preseason game on Saturday might. He completed just 4-of-11 passes for 21 yards and one interception and he struggled mightily in his first NFL start (preseason or regular). And because he had so many issues, coach Mike Munchak wasn’t able to declare Locker the starter this weekend. It makes sense that the Titans want Locker to emerge as the starter. After all, he’s the future and while the veteran Hasselbeck can keep Tennessee in most games, Locker is the superior athlete and has the ability to produce more big plays. But if the second-year quarterback can’t seize the opportunity in front of him, then Munchak has no choice but to allow the two signal callers to keep battling.

8. The Seahawks have an underrated battle at quarterback.
Doug Farrar of Yahoo! Sports joined Tony Softli and myself this morning on 101 ESPN radio in St. Louis and noted that at least one team would have drafted Russell Wilson ahead of Ryan Tannehill if Wilson weren’t as short as he is. But as SI.com’s Peter King said earlier this week, Wilson didn’t have one ball knocked down at Wisconsin. He’s a smart, instinctive kid with excellent fundamentals. If Matt Flynn didn’t sign that free agent deal this offeason, I’m not so sure Wilson wouldn’t have been named the starter by Pete Carroll at this point. Granted, Wilson has played against the second and third-teamers in preseason but that doesn’t negate the fact that he’s still making the throws, still making sound decisions, and still forcing Carroll from naming Flynn the starter heading into the third week of preseason.

9. The NFL hasn’t made the referees a priority, which is bothersome.
A couple of days ago NFL executive Ray Anderson made a comment on the locked out officials saying, “You’ve never paid for an NFL ticket to watch somebody officiate a game.” That’s true, I’ve never purchased a ticket to a NFL game hoping to a see a Pro Bowl-caliber performance from a referee. But I have paid to watch a professional NFL game, which should include professional referees. I get that the NFL is in the middle of a labor dispute and is therefore downplaying the value of the regular referees. But Anderson shouldn’t insult the intelligence of fans with comments like the one above. It’s a different game with replacement refs, and that much has been proven the past two weeks. I have no doubt that these replacements will improve with each week but it’s going to be a long time before they reach the level that the regulars are at. The NFL is not putting a high value on the regular referees, and that’s not fair to fans.

10. Questions surround Bowe.
As a whole, the Chiefs had a poor showing in their 31-17 loss to the Rams on Saturday night. But Matt Cassel did some good things, especially when he was allowed to open things up and target the middle of the field (which happens to be St. Louis’ weakness save for MLB James Laurinaitis). Jon Baldwin has also drawn rave reviews in training camp and Jamaal Charles appears to be recovering nicely from ACL surgery. Another piece of positive news is that Dwayne Bowe signed his franchise tender and has been cleared to practice. But will he learn new OC Brian Daboll’s scheme in time for the regular season? Imagine trying to master a new language before having to take the final exam in just two weeks. While there’s plenty of optimism growing in Kansas City, there’s a realistic chance that Bowe will be slow out of the gates until he can learn Daboll’s offense.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @TheScoresReport. You can also follow TSR editor Gerardo Orlando @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom, and you can follow TSR editor Anthony Stalter @AnthonyStalter.

From our partners
Picture of the Day

Picture of the Day

Enjoy a daily photo from Bullz-Eye.com of one of their beautiful models.

Online Dating Guide

Improve your game today!

You've got to brush up on your game to get the girl! Find your hookups with this online dating guide.

Sexy Girls and Cars

Check out this slideshow of hot babes and cool cars.

Cardinals’ rookie Ryan Williams may have career-threatening injury

In what could be devastating news for the rookie, Cardinals running back Ryan Williams “probably” has a torn patellar tendon according to head coach Ken Whisenhunt.

From Rotoworld:

It’s a season-ending and potentially career-threatening injury depending on Williams’ recovery process. The good news is that Williams is still just 21 years old, and the injury is occurring now as opposed to November. He’ll have a better chance to be healthy by the start of 2012 training camp. The bad news is that Williams will need major knee surgery and his rookie season in the NFL will be a washout. Beanie Wells will dominate carries in Arizona this year.

This poor kid can’t catch a break. After breaking multiple Virginia Tech and ACC rushing records in 2009 (including VA Tech’s single season rushing yards record, the ACC single season rushing touchdown mark and the ACC single season TD record), Williams injured his right hamstring in a game against East Carolina and wound up missing four games in 2010. Now he faces an even bigger injury hurdle.

Those we kept an eye on him in training camp were impressed by his quickness and ability to change directions without throttling down his speed. Given Beanie Wells’ injury concerns and inconsistently woes, Williams figured to see plenty of playing time in 2011. Hopefully he’ll only miss his rookie season and will be back in training camp again next year.

That now makes two players from the running back class of 2011 that will miss this season due to injury. The Lions’ Mikel Leshoure tore his Achilles’ tendon in practice last week.

Five players with something to prove at the 2011 NFL scouting combine

Honestly, there’s not one player who doesn’t have something to prove at this year’s scouting combine. Along with how they perform at their Pro Days, the combine might as well be a job interview for draft-eligible prospects. But below are five guys who stand out as players who have a lot on the line this week in Indianapolis.

Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas
Reports have surfaced that Mallett bypassed entering the 2010 draft because he had a drug addiction problem. There are also concerns about his decision-making, his leadership abilities and whether or not he can stand up to pressure when the pocket collapses. Some have even labeled him the next Ryan Leaf, which is the kiss of death for any quarterback prospect. But even with all the questions that surround him, he’s 6-6 and 238 pounds, is an ideal pocket passer and has a cannon for a right arm. He won’t run or do any of the agility tests at the combine, but he will throw and interview with teams. I have no doubt that he’ll impress scouts with his physical skills, but he better put his best foot forward during interviews because teams will want to know what kind of character he has. Passing the mandatory drug test wouldn’t be a bad idea either.

Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, North Carolina
Quinn missed the entire 2010 season for his involvement in an agent scandal. If he played well last year (or played at all), he may have been the top pass rusher taken in this year’s draft and a surefire top 10 pick. But because of his suspension, he won’t be able to live on his physical skills alone. There’s no doubt that he has the talent to be better than Aldon Smith, Da’Quan Bowers, Cam Jordan and the rest of the defensive ends in his year’s class, but the time is now for him to start erasing doubts about his character.

Read the rest of this entry »

The ACC takes a hit with NC’s upset of VA Tech

In the past two weeks, Frank Beamer’s Hokies have seen their season implode. After winning five straight to get to 5-1 on the season (they dropped the opener to Alabama), Virginia Tech was soundly defeated by Georgia Tech last Saturday and then was shocked last night by North Carolina, 20-17.

How do the Tar Heels walk into Blacksburg and earn a victory you ask? Well it helps when quarterback Tyrod Taylor starts the game 3-for-9 passing and finishes with only 161 yards and no touchdowns. He was highly inaccurate all night and often put the Hokies in third-and-longs by taking unnecessary sacks instead of getting rid of the ball.

That said, North Carolina’s defense deserves credit for pressuring Taylor the entire night and not allowing freshman running back Ryan Williams to run wild. He finished with 96 yards on 23 carries and no touchdowns, which is certainly respectable, but a far cry from some of his previous outings.

The Tar Heel defense stepped up big time in the first half while their offense sputtered, and then held on in the second half when the Hokies tried to make a run. Jheraine Boyd’s 13-yard touchdown pass from T.J. Yates right before the half gave North Carolina the momentum and confidence it needed to compete with the Hokies in the second half.

Not to crap on North Carolina’s accomplishment, but this wasn’t a favorable outcome for the ACC. VA Tech’s loss will likely drop them out of the top 25 and probably out of the top 15 of the BCS standings. That leaves Georgia Tech as the only ACC team in the top 15, and chances are the conference won’t have two BCS bowl teams.

But as they say: Oh, well. For a struggling North Carolina team to upset Virginia Tech on the road is quite an accomplishment and the bigger picture in the ACC shouldn’t tarnish what the Tar Heels did last night.

Related Posts